[caption id="attachment_86135" align="alignnone" width="500"] Guala Closures in early 2014 plans to install new small-run aluminum screw cap production equipment with enhanced decoration capabilities at its newest plant, in Fairfield. (image credit: Guala Closures)[/caption]
FAIRFIELD -- The North American arm of the world's largest producer of safety closures for spirits bottles and wine screw caps plans to set up a North Coast production plant tailored to small-scale orders.
Guala Closures North America expects to move into its newest screw cap plant, located at 2300 S. Watney Way in Fairfield, in March and start delivering caps to clients in June, according to Alessandro Bocchio, general manager of Guala Closures North America, Inc. (707-603-2845, gualaclosures.com). Currently, the subsidiary had just an 1,800-square-foot administration and sales office in downtown Napa and used a third-party warehouse in American Canyon.
"Because the market is growing for screw caps in the United States, especially in California, we decided to invest in local production," he said.
The relocation to an 11,000-square-foot plant and warehouse in Fairfield allows for the installation of new small-run technology for Guala as well as continued storage services for clients that can't purchase all of a production run at a time. Italy-based Guala's research-and-development center worked with an undisclosed Italian manufacturer to develop a system that allows the application of colors, logos and other artwork to screw caps in a way said to be different from today's conventional methods of offset printing, spray-painting and embossing.
Runs on the equipment can be as small as a few thousand caps. By comparison, minimum orders from Guala's nearest plant, located in Mexico, are for 100,000 closures.
"We have received a lot of inquiries from small wineries that want their own logo and color but once we tell them the quantities they need to buy, they say they can't buy a 10-year supply," Mr. Bocchio said.
For at least the next couple of years, until any expansion of the Fairfield plant is undertaken, large-scale production U.S. wine orders will continue to come from Mexico. Caps for high-pressure sparkling wine, called Viiva and developed with O-I, will continue to come from Australia. Savin Premium smooth-sided caps with skirt were announced from the South Aftrica plant in September, joining a WAK cap in the portfolio that also mimics the look of a conventional foil or plastic capsule over a bottletop.
Italy-based Guala Closures was started in 1954 and currently has almost 4,000 employees and 25 plants on four continents. Last year, the company produced about 13 billion closures.
Guala set up North American operations in 2005 in New York City to support imports for large spirits producers based on the East Coast. Three years ago, the company consolidated the subsidiary in Napa as the wine industry rebound started to pick up momentum.
Hiring for machine operators, quality-assurance manager and warehouse workers for the Fairfield plant has begun. The operation is set to employ 15 initially. Recruits will be sent to Guala's other plants for training.
"Expertise here is hard to find, because of the new technology that's involved," Mr. Bocchio said. Other Guala plants in Australia, New Zealand and Europe are interested in acquiring small-run equipment in coming years.
"Everyone is convinced that small wineries are a big and important market," he said. "The numbers can be significant when you put them all together."